By admin | February 24, 2008
A Teacher’s View of the Robby Gordon Situation
By Richard Allen
In an ideal world the rules would work the same for everybody. We all know it is not an ideal world.
As a high school teacher it sounds great to get up in front of a class and say things like, “You must be in class on time or there will be serious consequences” or “If you do not get your homework assignment in on time, you will fail”. However, there are instances in which being so rigid can serve to defeat the purpose of teaching, which is supposed to be helping kids succeed.
There are kids who have circumstances which make it impossible to get to school on time every day and have their homework finished at the very moment it is due. For example, some kids have to work late nights at lousy jobs because home situations leave them no other choice.
How in the world does this apply to NASCAR?
NASCAR wants to be the teacher who is rigid. It wants its rules to be the same for everybody. The sanctioning body has often been criticized for inconsistent disciplinary policies and they want to change that perception. However, just like school, circumstances sometimes dictate otherwise.
Literally days before teams left for Daytona, Robby Gordon Motorsports announced a new partnership with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports. This new arrangement caused Gordon’s team to hurriedly switch its fleet of cars from Ford to Dodge. In that rush, a clerical error resulted in RGM putting a nose on one of its cars that had not yet been approved for competition.
When the error was discovered in an inspection before cars were sent out to practice NASCAR decided at that moment the time had come for strict rigidity. The same organization that had allowed two repeat offenders to beat and bang on each other in a dangerous manner coming onto pit road during a practice session, then insult and punch each other in the infamous trailer, get away with only a scolding was going to finally get tough.
A fine of $100,000, a deduction of 100 points and a six week suspension of crew chief Frank Kerr was handed down.
As a teacher, I know that in some cases being so rigid can cause a student to give up or even drop out all together. If a kid works until midnight every night at a fast food place there is a good chance he or she will not have the homework assignment done the next day. If that same kid is working because mom has to have the extra money due to the fact that she does not make enough from her two jobs to pay the bills, the kid may decide that school is one extra hassle he does not need.
NASCAR is in that same situation. RGM is in a tough spot. Gordon took a hard financial hit when the Paris to Dakar rally was cancelled. Such a heavy financial penalty and the loss of points which may leave the team outside the Top 35 could cause RGM to close its doors.
So, what should NASCAR do? They should rescind this penalty. But not only that, they should do it the right way.
Rather than closing the doors of the NASCAR trailer then sending Jim Hunter out to announce their decision, they should hold a press conference to explain that unusual circumstances call for unusual solutions. Then, make it perfectly clear that if RGM is involved in anything like this again, harsh penalties will ensue.
NASCAR has the difficult responsibility to see to it the sport is conducted on a level playing field, but sometimes common sense has to prevail. An honest mistake was made by a struggling team who does not have the resources to employ hundreds of engineers and mechanics to check every detail in such an extraordinary situation.
In this one instance NASCAR should show leniency. The organizing body should attempt to work with its less funded teams rather than finding ways to chase them from the sport.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears every Wednesday in The Mountain Press.
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